Cook County Corruption Round-Up No. 1 – ComEd Rolls Like a Bowling Ball on Michael Madigan
This is the first in a series on recent events in Cook County corruption. Stay tuned for more on Michael Cabonargi, Dan Patlak, Larry Rodgers, Joseph Berrios, and more.
Michael Madigan has been the most powerful man in Illinois for several decades now. He runs both the state legislature and state Democratic party through both (a) his de jure powers as the Chair of the Illinois Democratic Party, Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, and Member of the Illinois House of Representatives (22nd district); and (b) his de facto power as the spider in a seemingly endless web of campaign contributions, patronage appointments, and electioneering. He is, to cop a crude video game metaphor, the “final boss” of machine politics in Illinois and probably the country.
On July 17, 2020, Jon Lausch, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, filed criminal charges against ComEd alleging, inter alia, that the public utility engaged in an expansive bribery scheme to buy influence in the Illinois General Assembly. However, more interesting than the state’s charges are ComEd’s sworn averments that between 2011 and 2019, they did, in fact, bribe Speaker Madigan and his subordinates with “jobs [involving little to no work], vendor subcontracts, and monetary payments […]” to curry his favor in the statehouse. These averments flatly admit to criminal activity and further agree to pay $200,000,000 and fully cooperate with the government in exchange for dismissal of the charges.
That same day, subpoenas – court orders demanding the production of documents and testimony – were delivered to Speaker Madigan’s office seeking information about his political organization, law firm, and a laundry list of political allies including former alderman, state representative, and precinct captains. Specifically named were Will Cousineau, Frank Clark, Frank Olivo, Ed Moody, Shaw Decremer, Michael Zalewski, Ray Nice, and Eddie Acevedo – all of whom were / are part of Speaker Madigan’s political apparatus.
The entire situation was adeptly summarized by Rich Miller at the Chicago Sun-Times as follows: “One of the most politically powerful entities in this state, ComEd, has basically admitted bribing the most politically powerful person in this state, House Speaker Michael Madigan.” Personally, I would remove the “basically” from that sentence but, hey, that’s just me.
Speaker Madigan’s office responded to the foregoing by (a) categorically denying any wrongdoing in any capacity ever and saying any claims to the contrary are “unfounded;” and (b) downplaying the subpoenas as seeking “among other things, documents related to possible job recommendations.” The former statement is insultingly stupid as it requires it’s audience to believe that when a fifteen billion-dollar company admits under oath that they bribed a man for eight years, paid $200,000,000 as contrition for such bribes, and rolled over like a dog to avoid being reamed by the federal government, this is not a good “foundation” for concluding maybe – just maybe – some actual bribery occurred. The latter statement is an obvious mischaracterization as, if you read the subpoena – which requests documents on twelve different topics ranging from several disgraced former public officials to ComEd, Walgreen, and Rush medical – and conclude that the document is about “job descriptions,” you need your head examined.
Governor Pritzker – who is, probably, the second most powerful man in Illinois – has stated that if these allegations are true, Speaker Madigan “must resign.” Two other Democratic “Madigan friendly” legislators – Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego and Rep. Kelly Cassidy – joined the Governor in his condemnation and conclusion. While what will come of this is, obviously, quite uncertain, the list of Madigan associates already compromised (Danny Solis, Kevin Quinn, et al.) is so long and the mountain of evidence implicating those remaining Madigan associates is so high, I suspect someone is gonna flip like a flapjack to get out of the griddle and turn on Uncle Mike.